Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Phillips v. Potter

August 19, 2009

SUZANNE PHILLIPS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL, UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

SYNOPSIS

In this civil action, for which trial is imminent, Plaintiff claims that Defendant, in particular a manager named Arneson, retaliated against her in breach of a settlement agreement that resolved a prior discrimination dispute between the parties. In this case, therefore, Plaintiff must prove that she engaged in protected conduct, her employer took materially adverse action against her, and that there was a causal connection between her protected activity and the adverse action. Defendant has filed six Motions in Limine, dealing with a variety of evidence.

Preliminarily, I note that the burden of establishing the admissibility and relevance of evidence rests on the proponent. E.g., Yibulayin v. Yellow Freight Sys., No. 4-3690, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23836, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 18, 2005). Additionally, evidence should be excluded on a motion in limine only when the evidence is clearly inadmissible on all potential grounds. Potenza v. City of New York, 04-CV-2434, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60877 (E.D.N.Y. July 15, 2009).

OPINION

I. Motion re: Claims Not Properly Exhausted and/or Relevant to the Case (#1)

Defendant has filed a Motionseeking to exclude claims allegedly not properly exhausted and/or relevant to Plaintiff's case. (Docket No. 68). Specifically, Defendant seeks to exclude the following evidence: 1) "that the Postal Service fails to train its managers in Title VII compliance and generally fails to enforce non-discrimination policy," 2) "that the Postal Service fails to enforce a policy involving Zero Tolerance for Violence in the workplace," and 3) "that the Postal Service allegedly destroyed emails and other documents allegedly related to Plaintiff's case." (Docket No. 68, p. 1).

Initially, Defendant suggests that said evidence must be excluded because Plaintiff cannot now assert new claims that she failed to exhaust through the administrative process. (Docket No. 68, pp. 1-4). In response, Plaintiff states that she is not asserting new discrete claims, but rather is attempting to prove the claims already pled with said evidence. (Docket No. 81, p. 2). Accepting this statement by Plaintiff as true, I agree with Plaintiff that she need not exhaust administrative remedies with regard to said evidence. Therefore, Motion #1 is denied as to Defendant's exhaustion argument.

The next argument by Defendant is that because the evidence set forth above is irrelevant and highly prejudicial, it should be excluded. (Docket No. 69, pp. 4-5). Relevant evidence is defined as evidence "having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Fed. R. Evid. 401. This type of inquiry under Rules 401 and 403 is fact-intensive, and context-specific. Sprint v. Mendelsohn, __ U.S. __, 128 S.Ct. 1140; 170 L.Ed. 2d 1 (2008).

With regard to the evidence that "that the Postal Service fails to train its managers in Title VII compliance and generally fails to enforce non-discrimination policy," Defendant takes issue with Plaintiff's reference to the "Doc" incident. I find that the failure to train is not a cause of action in this case and the evidence in the form of the "Doc" incident does not tend to show retaliation, a hostile work environment, or Plaintiff's breach of contract claim. As a result, the "Doc" incident will be excluded.

With regard to the allegation "that the Postal Service fails to enforce a policy involving Zero Tolerance for Violence in the workplace," Defendant argues that Plaintiff's references to "the Carol Eiseman incident and the Lisa Johnson incident" are not relevant. (Docket No. 69, p. 4-5). Said incidents are relevant to show harassment and/or a hostile work environment claims. Therefore, I find the Carol Eiseman and Lisa Johnson incidents will be admissible. . With regard to the evidence "that the Postal Service allegedly destroyed emails and other documents allegedly related to Plaintiff's case," Defendant argues that this evidence was subject the subject of Plaintiff's previously filed Motion for Sanctions. (Docket No. 69, p. 5). In denying Plaintiff's Motion for Sanction, I found that "there is no evidence that the destroyed documents were relevant." (Docket No. 52, p. 13). Having made this finding previously, the introduction of the alleged destruction would serve no relevant purpose at trial. Therefore, Defendant's Motion with regard to the alleged destruction of emails and other documents is granted. As such, said evidence shall be excluded at time of trial.

II. Motion re: Evidence of EEO Complaints Filed Against USPS Managers (#2) and Motion re: "Me Too" Evidence of Other Employees' Allegations (#4)

Defendant has filed two Motions relating to evidence about the management's treatment of Plaintiff's co-workers. Defendant's second Motion in limine seeks to exclude evidence of other EEO Complaints filed against its Managers, including Arneson, on the basis that it is improper character evidence that is not probative of the issues in this case. Similarly, Defendant's fourth Motion in limine seeks to exclude evidence of co-workers' other allegations against managerial staff. The latter specifically addresses evidence of alleged violations of union seniority rights, disapproval of leave and scheduling changes, threats to withdraw EEO complaints, and failures of management to take disciplinary action. Defendant argues that the evidence is irrelevant, and that its probative value is outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice and confusion of the issues.

Rule 404(b) prohibits the admission of evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith.*fn1 To admit evidence under Rule 404(b), the evidence must have a proper purpose, be relevant, and its probative value must outweigh its potential for unfair prejudice. U.S. v. Rahamin, 168 Fed.Appx. 512, 519 (3d Cir. 2006). The threshold issue under Rule 404(b) is "'whether th[e] evidence is probative of a material issue other than character." United States v. Sriyuth, 98 F.3d 739, 745 (3d Cir. 1996). Relevant evidence is defined as evidence "having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.